It is May 1976 and Runcorn have just won the Northern Premier League title for the first time. The team had reached the semi-final of the FA Trophy only to end up with ten men and losing by an odd goal to Stafford over the two legs. And the man who had led the Linnets to these new heights on the field? Alan King.
And what a team he led. A look at the goal scoring charts for that season makes interesting reading. Finnigan 43; Whitbread 29; Howard 21. What most teams would give for that forward line nowadays!
Alan King had already had a good career at Tranmere Rovers when he arrived at Runcorn in 1973 and he played for the Linnets right up until 1980. He was a natural leader and an inspirational figure on the field. He dominated the centre circle and although he didn’t have the pace, his reading of the game was impeccable and he let the younger lads do the running for him. During his time at Canal Street, King led the team to three Trophy semi-finals as well as the league title, the club’s first since the Cheshire League title in the early 1960s. King was the leader on the field but in Stan Storton, the Linnets had found a first class non-league manager. The two together were irresistible. Indeed, when Storton left the club in 1979, it was King who took over briefly as manager before the appointment of Jim McCalliog (who you will not be surprised to learn has not made it into our series on Linnets Legends!)
How nice it was then that Alan King was one of the “Old Brigade” to turn up at Canal Street for that final match in our home town. He obviously felt a close affinity with the club after all these years.
King was not a great goal scorer. His strength was in his passing and his leadership. He had started his career at Tranmere in the early 1960s and he made over 420 league appearances in his ten years at the club. As a 27 year old he moved into the semi-professional game with the Linnets, and what followed was an unprecedented spell of success for the club. Alan King always led by example and the winning of the NPL title was the pinnacle of his captaincy. That title actually put the Linnets in with an opportunity to appear in an Anglo-Italian non-league competition but financial issues prevented this from happening. King remained at the club for three more seasons after that, but had departed from the scene before the arrival of John Williams and the NPL title for a second time. Alan King will always be a Linnets Legend as the first captain at the club to lift the NPL Trophy.